Friday, September 16, 2011

We've Moved!

Our blog has moved!
That brings up way more questions than it answers. So here are the answers to the most obvious questions. :-) Like, where we moved the blog and why. And what will happen to all of our past articles. So here's the lowdown:

The new address for our blog is

My dream for over a year has been to combine our corporate website and this Blogger blog in to one website on the WordPress platform. Blogger is great, but it's better if people don't have to leave our website to read our articles. So now our blog is living in a sub domain of our main website called

Why else?
I'm obsessed with WordPress. I chronicled my obsession in a couple past articles: 10 Reasons I Jumped on the WordPress Bandwagon and WordPress Theme Smackdown.

What happens with our past articles?
Our past articles will stay right here at But all or our new articles will be published at our new location 

Please come an check out our new blog!
Here's a list of the articles we've publish this past week:
Please let me know what you think of the new blog website!!!

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What it takes to be an IT Recruiter

Do you have what it takes to be an IT recruiter?

First you might be wondering what the heck an IT recruiter does?

Sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, references, background checks, contract negotiations, client/candidate account management, social media outreach, presentations/meetings...

That doesn't sound so bad. It might even sound fun (because it is fun!) But let me tell you, it's not always fun and sometimes it's downright heart-breaking. Somedays it can be a non-stop rollercoaster ride.

One minute you're presenting a job offer to a great candidate who's thrilled to get the job. The next your trying to find out and explain to a client why a great candidate failed to show up for an interview.

Sometimes you call people who forget that they posted their resume and they treat you like you're calling them in the middle of dinner to sell windows. Then the next person you call treats you like you're calling to inform them that they just won the lottery (and they make up for the not so great calls!).

That's just the candidates. Clients are a whole different ball game.

As a Hiring Manager, it can sometimes be forgotten that the "perfect" candidate may have two or three other job offers. This is when you have to be creative and use your negotiation skills!

It's not only people that make the job challenging. The job is inherently difficult because it is our job to fill the "hard" job orders (but nothing is impossible!). Easy jobs are the jobs that companies can easily fill themselves. We get the challenging job orders for people with niche skills sets and specialized experience.

Day in, day out, we are looking for people that are difficult to find because the few people who do meet the job requirements are happily employed or not easily found. That's when you have to think outside the box and do some serious headhunting (which is my favourite part - you get to be a candidate detective!) You have to search high and low to find the right candidate for an opportunity that also meets their needs/career aspirations - and you have to find them before your competition finds them (I like to think it's similar to "The Amazing Race")

So do you have what it takes to handle the rollercoaster ride? There are up's and down's but trust me the hills are the best part!

  • Do you thrive on challenge?

  • Are you willing to work whenever you have to connect with people to fill the job?

  • Do you love to help people hire the right people and find the jobs that will make them happy?

  • Do you love to learn?

  • Do you love to hunt?

  • Do you love to solve difficult problems?

  • Do you love to network?

  • Do you love, love, love technology!!!

Then you just might love being an IT recruiter as much as I do :-)

Other Posts by Michelle De Rubeis

Where are the Women? Connecting Women and Technology
iPad versus Playbook Debate Revisited
Steve, Mark and Jim: Who Made 2010's Nice List?
How to Sparkle in a Room Full of Diamonds

About the Author

Michelle De Rubeis
Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best Office Staff Party Photo Contest Winner!

The winner in our Best Office Staff Party Photo Contest has been announced! A great big congratulations to Mr. Slava whose entry, Get into the Pool, just won him a Sony laptop!

The Winning Office Party Photo
Mr Slava's winning photo of his boss getting tossed into the pool by a group of his rowdy employees won for being the most memorable of all the best office party photo entries.

According to one of the judges, "You can just picture what happens next with this one. The expression of the guy by the pool is a classic and tells us exactly what we all want to see, but are left to envision in our own imagination."

Thank you all who entered!
Congrats again to our winner, Mr. Slava, and a great big thank you to everyone who submitted entries, and voted for their favourite photos. Special thanks to Rob Campbell and the Lenzr team for helping us put together this contest.

On a side note, I'm pretty sure the winning photo has dissuaded me from ever throwing a pool party for our own summer staff party, just incase any of our employees get any funny ideas...

Related Articles

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Inside Scoop on IT Jobs in Toronto

According to Stats Canada, over the month of June 2011, there were 28,000 new jobs created in Canada versus 18,000 new jobs created in the United States. In a recent quarterly survey, the Bank of Canada reported that 57% of Canadian companies surveyed are looking to hire over the next year. These stats are great news for the Canadian workforce, and particularly exciting if you are involved in the IT sector of Silicon Valley North, a.k.a. the tech hub of downtown Toronto.

Tech startups in Toronto experiencing fast growth
As an IT staffing agency in Toronto, we have the pleasure of seeing many startups reaching lift-off status, first-hand. Many of our clients recently ranked on Deloitte's radar, and one company was recently acquired by a prominent game manufacturer:
  • Nexj Systems: placed fourth on Deloitte's 2010 Canadian Technology Fast 50 Ranking. Out of the 50 companies on this list, 11 were from Toronto.

  • Polar Mobile: was awarded Deloitte's 2010 Companies-to-Watch award. Out of the list of 10 companies, 4 were from Toronto.

  • Five Mobile: a mobile development company from Toronto, was recently purchased by Zynga, a social game development company, for an undisclosed amount. They are now known as 'Zynga Toronto.'

Access to refunds and tax credits make Toronto attractive to tech start ups
Part of the reason tech business is booming in Toronto is due to a government initiative called the Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. SR&ED provides millions of dollars in cash refunds and/or tax credits for small business expenditures on research and development work done in Canada. Companies such as Polar Mobile are happy to take advantage of these credits rather than outsource work to India or China, creating job opportunities for local technology professionals.

Lucrative tech careers at the moment
It's great to see companies investing in local talent, and it's great to see that IT professionals have more options today. Many developers and programmers we've placed are reluctant to take contract positions for less than three months as they know their services are in high demand at the moment, and they're right for thinking this way. It's a profitable time to be in an IT profession.

To give you a range of salaries for hot tech jobs in Toronto at the moment:
  • Mobile App Developers: We're seeing people with J2ME skills, Objective C, and Android developer skills that have been placed at companies for an average salary of 60k+ starting salary as a Jr. Developer, and upwards of 80+ with about 5 years experience. These developer skills are in high demand at the moment.

  • M-commerce or Mobile Commerce: Experience with this as a developer will easily net 70k+. Leading companies in this field include PayPal, Square (started by Twitter Founder, Jack Dorsey), and local Toronto company, EnStream.

  • Object Oriented Programming Skills in Banking or Software (OO): These skills almost guarantee you are going to get a job in Toronto right now. With 5-7 years experience, you could earn an average of 60-75k a year.

  • Banking Skills in Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Business Analyst Derivatives, or Derivatives Programming: This area of IT is experiencing a lot of growth right now. You can net about 80k+ with less than 5 years experience at the moment.

  • Regulation Processes (Sarbanes Oxley & Basel I, II, III): This is another growing market. This is quite an advanced field in Canada at the moment, so if you go into this profession, it's not unusual that you would be asked to travel all over the world.

If you're in college or university at the moment, and you want to make money quickly out of school, one of the jobs mentioned above might be just what you're looking for. Whether you're just entering the workforce as an IT professional, you've built a startup, or you're part of an established company, this is an exciting time to be part of Silicon Valley North.

Related Articles

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Future of IT

My daughter is 6 months old. When I was her age, my favourite toy was a stuffed Bert from Sesame Street. Not my daughter, though. She was born with a passion for technology. The first time she crawled, it was to get to my iPad 2. Forget about toys, she wants to play with cellphones, iPads and any kind of digital gadget she can get her tiny hands on.

I recently read a tweet from CEO of Polar Mobile, Kunal Gupta, who mentioned, "your children are in two states...sleeping or online," and I couldn't agree more. Born into a culture of technology, it's no wonder our kids are so tech-savvy.

Growing up, my first computer was a Commodore 64, and I dreamed of colour graphics and not needing 9 floppy disks to run a program. Computers today run on terabyte hard drives and are much more advanced, allowing kids access to technology, information and opportunities to learn that in my time simply didn't exist.

One such opportunity is an elite camp known as Shad Valley, a summer enrichment program for students currently enrolled in or finishing high school. Open to both Canadian and international students, Shad takes a passion for technology and fuels it into a prominent and driven career path. Students spend a month living on campus at one of the host university campuses across Canada, studying business, science, math, engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship. Some of the top young CEO's and founders of technology companies have attended this camp.

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell speaks of the rule of 10 thousand hours. He believes after 10 thousand hours of practice or study on a particular topic, you become an expert. Imagine the potential our children will have if they become experts in technology while they are still in high school. By university, they'll be ahead of the curve, and by the time they reach the job market, they'll have a competitive advantage, a vision, and no ceiling on where they can go, and what they can accomplish.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Win a Sony Laptop in Our Best Office Staff Party Photo Contest

Summer is here, and that means office parties, company barbecues and team building events are in full swing. In the spirit of the summer party season, Stafflink Solutions has partnered with, a serial photo contest site, to bring you the Best Office Staff Party photo contest. If you have a great picture from your latest office party or work retreat, submit it and you could win a Sony laptop!

We want to see your office in action, unwinding and relaxing. If you've got a photo of the sales and marketing teams, mingling with the IT staff of web developers, IT programmers and business analysts, submit it with a creative caption.

To enter, visit, submit your photo and get your co-workers, friends and family to vote for your picture. Get you photo submitted as soon as possible. Voting starts July 15th and closes on July 25th. On July 25th, the photos with the most votes will move into the top ten, where the final winning photo will be decided by the Lenzr judges. The winner will be chosen based on the photo quality as well as the most imaginative description provided. The contest closes August 1st, so get your photo posted soon!

We've already had a number of great submissions. Click here to check them out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Golf A Little, Get A Lot

It’s 7:15am on a beautiful Thursday morning in June. On any given Thursday, I would normally be getting ready to start recruiting Toronto’s top talent; however, today isn’t just any Thursday – it is the day I will play my first round of golf! Not to mention, I will be playing it with the extremely athletic (and golf saavy) Stafflink team! Luckily, I have a new golf outfit, so at least I look the part.

Although the Stafflink team is a rather adventurous group, today’s golf adventure means much more than trying out a new sport or showing off some superb skills. Today we are participating in Bereaved Families of York Region’s 17th Annual Forget-Me-Not Golf Tournament. is an organization that is very close to my heart. I became involved in the organization back in 2007 when they hired me as a summer student, while I was completing my degree. The organization’s mission is to provide volunteer bereavement support services to families and individuals grieving the death of a loved one. Their services are offered free of charge and they receive no federal or municipal funding. The majority of their funding comes from individual contributions and fundraising events, such as their golf tournament. They are an organization who runs on the generous hearts and hard-work of a very strong and compassionate community.

After telling the Stafflink team about my involvement with BFOYR and the upcoming tournament - it took absolutely no convincing, our amazing founder, Tim Collins, had already signed us up.

So how did my first round go? I may not be Michelle Wei but I hit a few good drives and I learned how to “chip”. I also discovered that Tim is a phenomenal golfer, Ryan can hit a ball farther than anyone I’ve ever seen, and Neil is a mini-putt champion. Most importantly, our day was filled with a tremendous amount of laughs, wonderful company and an opportunity for our staff to support a great cause while participating in a phenomenal team building exercise. Thanks BFOYR!

Other Posts by Michelle De Rubeis

Where are the Women? Connecting Women and Technology
iPad versus Playbook Debate Revisited
Steve, Mark and Jim: Who Made 2010's Nice List?
How to Sparkle in a Room Full of Diamonds

About the Author

Michelle De Rubeis ,Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions

Saturday, June 11, 2011

10 Tips to Capture Hot Candidates

Can your company improve the recruiting and hiring process? As the marketplace shifts to a candidate’s marketplace, companies are challenged to constantly analyze and improve their talent acquisition processes.

If a candidate has three offers, are you confident that they will take your offer?

Smart employers are beginning to realize that they must be willing to be innovative and move quickly to capture these hot candidates. Some successful techniques that we have seen employers use to capture star candidates include:

  1. All interviews same day. Don’t force a candidate to come back twice if you can complete the evaluation in one day.  Efficient hiring processes demonstrate to a candidate that you are an agile, efficient company. That you respect and value their time. This gives the candidate a preview of what the processes throughout the company will be like.
  2. Extend offers within days of the interview. How long do you really need to think about itJ
  3. Signing bonuses.  A good alternative to raising the salary above a set salary band.
  4. Free Tablets. It’s pretty cool to give the candidate an iPad when they sign up.  Cost low – impact high.
  5. Working from Home privileges. A great way to demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance.
  6. Flex Hours. Many companies have core hours when employees must be in the office but are flexible outside of the core hours.
  7. Free beer. If you fill an open engineering position at Hipster, a startup in Silicon Valley, they will reward you with $10,000 in cash and a year's supply of beer. 
  8. Have your stars interview star candidates. You need to bring out the top talent to capture the top talent
  9. Know what the market rates are. Don’t try and lowball. If you know market rates it shows the candidate that you've done your research and you are willing to pay them what they are worth.
  10. Gym Membership. A healthy employee is a happy, productive employee. Less sick daysJ

Empower the people doing the interviews to capture the top talent. Make sure they have the training and coaching to interview and sell star candidates on the opportunity to work for your business. Employers that can adapt and capture the best candidates will be more successful in the long run.
Related Articles

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

IT Job Market 2011: Who's Hot?

We’ve noticed a change in the kind of person our clients want to hire. It’s not enough to have the technical skills anymore. Our clients are looking for triple threats: IT experts with 5+ experience in a specific business vertical plus excellent people skills. 

It’s not just about coding in a cubicle anymore. Now employers are looking for technology experts with client-facing skills, adaptable people who can move from one team to another.  But people like this are in short supply.  Here are the top skills in demand in the Toronto GTA job market right now:

  1. Mobile Programmers – J2ME, Objective C and Android – anybody with hands on experience can write their own ticket. If you are a college or university and you want to increase your placement rates, then teach these courses and give the power to the graduates.
  2. Programmers with client facing skills – Consulting companies are hiring again. If you have OO skills and have experience working with a consulting company, you know you are in demand because you get calls all the time. If you have these skills and are looking for work call us at 416 364 2300 and we'll give you multiple opportunities J
  3. Derivatives and technology – A deadly combination that makes you very much in demand.  As a candidate with a few years experience, these skills you will get 70K.
  4. Solutions and Enterprise Architect – Being able to see the big picture allows these candidates to have the power. SOA consultants have the ability to design the fundamental 'architecture' of an application. The Enterprise Architect is especially sought after since they are able to architect applications that are compatible with many different divisions of an enterprise.
  5. Government Experience – As much as the government says they will consider people without government experience, if you have this experience you can write your ticket.
  6. Business Intelligence – So much data  is being tracked throught social media that people with the skills to analyze and help clients use this data are, and will continue to be, in huge demand.
These are the most in demand skills that we see presently. Everybody is trying to capture these candidates. In my next article I will reveal strategies that some companies are using to capture these candidates.  Stay Tuned…

Related Articles

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

IT Job Market 2011: Is This a Candidate’s Job Market?

Who has the most power in the marketplace these days? Is it the candidate or the employer?

According to Statistics Canada our jobless rate is at 7.4% ( ). This is at our lowest rate since June 2009, which was the beginning of the recession.

As the jobless rate decreases the power grows for technology job candidates. If you are in the manufacturing industry there are still struggles ahead.  My expertise is around the  technology world, and we are starting to see evidence of an emerging  candidate's market.

What are some of the signs of a candidate's market?

  1. Competition for candidates. Now it's normal for us to see candidates with multiple offers, but this didn't happen a year ago.
  2. Empowered Candidates. Candidates are actually turning down reasonable job offers. One year ago candidates would jump at the first offer.
  3. Employers are looking to fill teams. Some of our clients are winning projects and need to fill teams of 5 to 10 people or more. A year ago many of our clients were cancelling projects.
  4. Less outsourcing. Fewer clients are outsourcing projects overseas which means more competition for candidates. Businesses have become very selective about what they outsource abroad. This means more jobs locally. Recently we had a client that did a cost comparison between outsourcing a team of three from India and hiring three local contractors. After considering the costs and the importance of delivery deadlines, they chose to hire local contractors because it was less expensive to do the work locally.  
  5. Small businesses are hiring. One of the main causes for the decrease in the jobless rate is the increase of self-employment and the success of small businesses. Over 30% of our job orders are now coming from small and medium sized businesses that are growing.
It's not a candidate's market for all candidates at this point. But the candidates that have the power these days are obviously the ones that are in demand.  In my next article I'll tell you exactly which candidates are wielding the most power in the technology job market.

Related Articles

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stafflink Attends Regent Park School of Music Spring Fundraiser

Ryan, Tim and Neil at RPMG Fundraiser
We had the enormous honour of attending Cresendo, the annual Spring fundraiser for the Regent Park School of Music at the Steam Whistle Brewery on Wednesday.

Our relationship with RPSM began a couple years ago when I worked with the Board of Directors to recruit and hire Richard Marsella, their current Director. This isn't our normal line of business but I was thrilled to help out.

It was beautiful to see people giving back to this event in support of the children. The choir and the individual performers were extremely talented and entertaining. Jim Creegan of The Barenaked Ladies not only performed with the students but spent weeks prior to the event practicing and no doubt inspiring the kids.

RPSM Performs with Roger Waters

The choir was fresh off of a performance at the ACC with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd where they sang the chorus of the "Another Brick in The Wall". These kids were inspiring. You could see a true love of music shining through them.

The Regent Park School of Music started as a safe haven for youth after school. For the first two years they worked out of the basement of a church. Now they are operating out of a brownstone townhouse. RPMG is about to move into a new building as part of the revitalization of the area. The school has set a goal of having 3000 students enrolled within the next five years.

I am confident that they will meet that target. I've met the board members and the current Director Richard Marsella is an amazing individual who has accomplished great things with the Regent Park School of Music already. The future is very loud and vocal for this little school that is rapidly evolving into a renowned school of music.

Donate to the Regent Park School of Music

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Could AI and RIM Cure Blindness?

Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer
What if there was an artificial intelligence that helped us distill the collective knowledge of the Internet into a Blackberry device that enabled a blind girl to see?

Let's say that this AI could see through any firewall and had unlimited access to everything on the Internet. It claimed that its primary intention was to improve the net happiness of the world. Then it demonstrated its goodwill by comparing the results of every study and presented a cure for cancer?

Big Brother?
That AI would be immensely powerful. More powerful than any government. Would the benefits outweigh the risks? I wonder.

Wonder is the title of a novel I just read by Robert J. Sawyer. It's the third book in Sawyer's WWW series. It's a sci-fi page-turner with philosophy, politics and Canadianna. Much of the action revolves around the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in Waterloo.

The heroine is a blind teenage girl who regains her sight with the help of an AI named Webmind, a Japanese doctor, the Perimeter Institute and a Blackberry (nice plug for RIM). Caitlin goes through some of the typical teenage things like high school dances. But her connection with Webmind puts her in front of the United Nations and at the center of a major world transition. Need I say more? You gotta read it :)

Who Really Controls the Internet?
This book makes you question the limits of technology, smartphones and who really controls the Web. I kept asking myself, should somebody or some organization control the Internet?

The Internet as a Political Force
This novel reminds me of how often social media has headlined in the news lately. Facebook recently signed a deal with the largest social networking site in China. How about President Obama's appearance at Facebook HQ for a Town Hall meeting. Many countries are attempting to limit or control information flow but people still find ways to coordinate protests online.

WWW Equals Hope
What I liked most about Wonder is how it explores the potential of the collective of the World Wide Web to make the world a better place through crowdsourcing. What would happen if the Internet woke up and became a conscious of itself? Let's hope that AI would be a synthesis of the best that Web has to offer.

Related Links

Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where are the Women? Connecting Women and Technology

It has been almost a year since I began my career as an IT Recruiter at Stafflink. As my one year mark nears, I've started to reflect on my experience in the industry and all of the wonderful IT professionals I have met. However, I am still left with one recurring question… “Where are all the women?!”

It is hard to ignore the fact that a very small majority of IT professionals I have encountered are women. However, this discussion is not meant to focus simply on the lack of women in technology but rather focus on the importance of women in technology.
Did you know that… the average teenage girl sends approximately 3,330 text messages a month? How about that 77% of Groupon’s subscription base is female? And if you want to know who the average social gamer is; it’s not your thirteen year old brother… it is your 43 year old mother. (Christina Brodbeck, CEO of TheIceBreak,
Women are clearly engaged and excited about technology so why aren’t many of us pursuing careers in technology? Educators and industry leaders are asking the same question.

The photo on the left was taken at a forum hosted by The Peel District School Board to explore careers for women in Information Technology on International Women's Day. (Students Explore Career Paths, Brampton Guardian, March 8, 2011)

I believe that the only way to encourage women to pursue technical careers is to educate women on their power in the field and nurture their love for technology. Women need to see examples of other women’s success in the field so they have role models they can look up to. Here are just a few to get the conversation started:

Limor Fried, Founder of Adafruit

Limor is a “do-it-yourself” goddess that sells DIY kits that assist people with hardware hacking. One of her most popular products is a DIY kit that disables the cellphone signals of those around to help students who are studying and crave absolute silence.

Kelle Santiago, President and Co-Founder of thatgamecompany

Kelle heads a small team of 12 people that have proved they can stand among the corporate gaming giants. Her company, thatgamecompany, created the game Flower which was ranked in Sony’s top ten Playstation games for 2009 and 2010.

Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, Co-Founders of Rent the Runway

These Harvard graduates embraced technology when they created their highly successful website that allows women across America to rent luxury dresses and accessories instead of purchase them. The site acts as a reservation site where women rent items for special occasions for a period of 10 days and then return the item once the event is over.

Recommended Reading

Women and Tech: Focus on Female Consumers and the Founders will Follow
Executive Forum on Gender Diversity – A Step toward Full Parity
ITAC Gender Diversity Forum Provides Primer on Building an Inclusive ICT Workplace
Students Explore Career Paths


About the Author

Michelle De Rubeis ,Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Ace Your Interview

I created this video blog to help my candidates prepare when I send them in for an interview with one of our clients. It basically covers everything you need to know to leave a lasting positive impression with an interviewer and hopefully get a job offer:

  • How to get ready
  • What to bring
  • What to wear
  • How to make a great first impression
  • How to answer the question, "Tell me about yourself"
  • Tips for answering the tough questions
  • What questions to ask
Here's the video. It's less than 5 minutes long. Your comments and questions are welcome!

All the best!

Related Articles:
How to Handle Behavioural Interview Questions
Interview Tips for Jobs: Why Should We Hire You? The Great Answer
What Should I Wear to an Interview for a Job?
How to Sparkle in a Room Full of Diamonds
How to Land a Job in 7 Seconds

About the Author:
Neil Wiseblott, Technical Recruiter
Stafflink Solutions

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Design and WINNING!

I’m a strong believer that a company’s website design tells a story that can make or break a business. Research backs me up. Colors, typography, logo -- these seemingly small things are actually major factors in your success. When people visit your website for the first time, the colors and design give them a subconscious feeling for your company and whether they want to deal with you.

Research backs it up

Sports companies study jersey colour and pattern to find out how these correlate with winning. Some have determined that winners wear red. This relates back to all businesses. Paul Haft is a Toronto color guru who has been helping his clients find winning color strategies for decades. He designed the immensely successful Pink ribbon logo for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Recruiter by day, design buff by night

I’m by no means an expert but I do have a passion for design and these are things I notice. I’m not saying a failing company can resurrect its self by changing its branding, but it’s definitely possible. A fresh new design has the potential to carry a company to a new level of success.

Colour matters

Technology companies often use blue with white and yellow/orange/grey accent colours. This is a great colour palette as blue has a feeling of crisp/clean and business. Depending on the tones it can be regal or soft and inviting. Whenever I walk into a white and blue Apple store, I feel compelled to buy something. Banks often have green carpet runners. We all relax when we see the sand tones at spas.

Black and white

Look at websites like RIM. Their user experience is fantastic. They have excellent design and functionality. This isn’t just because they’re a huge conglomerate company. It’s because RIM puts innovation and passion behind everything they do. The black differentiates them from the white favoured by their arch rival Apple. Black gives a feeling power and authority that's good for business.

What story does your company tell?

This leads me to BMW’s new campaign slogan, “JOY”. What does that word mean to you? Is it freedom of sitting at the cottage on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Is it the walk on a crisp autumn morning with your Golden Retriever? Is it the feeling of flying down a black diamond ski hill? Joy is the perfect word to describe the feeling of owning and driving a BMW. The point is that they’re selling a car on a feeling! And that's what design and color does for your company too. 

Written By:

Ryan Ayres
Technology Recruiter

Thursday, March 31, 2011

iPad vs. Playbook Debate Revisited

Back in October, you may recall a rather avid Blackberry fan writing an article called “Comparing Apples to Berries: 4 Reasons Why I Pick the PlayBook”. Still a self-proclaimed “crackberry”, I am just as thrilled now as I was then about the arrival of Blackberry’s PlayBook.

I believe the debate needs to be revisited with the arrival of the next generation of the iPad, the infamous iPad2. I will give credit to the iPad2’s sleek new package (it is 117g lighter than the first generation model) and exclusive “limited availability” marketing (the iPad2 could not be pre-ordered before its release date, making the average consumer want it that much more). However, when it comes down to the new generation’s specs, not much has changed.


My argument for Flash still stands. The iPad2 does not support it and Playbook does. Not supporting flash will weaken video experience for iPad users and provides a space for other tablets such as the PlayBook and Android tablets to capitalize on.

Video Conferencing

In terms of video-conferencing, the iPad added an additional camera so iPad users can now use FaceTime calling software just like PlayBook users (I knew that was coming!). However, according to many online reviews the rear-facing camera on the iPad2 is of low quality and the images are rather grainy, jerky and distorted.

Battery Performance

An area where the iPad2 has improved is in the battery life and internet performance. Apparently the iPad2 has an average battery life of 10 hours, with many online reviews claiming that the battery life lasts in excess of 15 hours. The iPad2 ships with iOS 4.3, which allows users to stream music and video flawlessy using AirPlay and remotely locate devices using MobileMe.


The iPad2 doesn’t offer any particular upgrades that will not work on the original iPad – unless you are looking for video conferencing capabilities. However, I will say the growth potential of the iPad2 is tremendous if application developers jump on the bandwagon – an area where the PlayBook has been having trouble.

The Verdict

Overall, the PlayBook is enterprise focused – and the iPad2 still appears to more be consumer focused; leaving both to target different markets. My verdict? I’ll still be lining up with all the other “crackberries” to purchase my PlayBook – but I know it’s not for everyone. Evaluate your own needs and purchase what device will suit your lifestyle best.

Related Articles

Comparing Apples to Berries: 4 Reasons Why I Pick the PlayBook
Steve, Mark and Jim: Who's Made 2010's Nice List?
Who Do You Love? BlackBerry Torch or iPhone?
Love What You Do

Written By

Michelle De Rubeis ,Technical Recruiter, StaffLink Solutions Ltd.

Monday, March 28, 2011

WordPress Theme Smackdown: Free, Premium or Custom

We're migrating our corporate website to WordPress. After a year of searching for the perfect WordPress theme to style our site I've decided to get a custom theme developed. It wasn't an easy decision. My original intention and true wish is to do the whole thing myself. Now I see that DIY could stall the project forever. It's time to reach out and get some help.

Static Version of
I created the current version of our website over a year ago. Since then I've done everything in my power to make it look and act like a dynamic WordPress site. I added Twitter widgets, a blog and hooked our site up with an RSS feed and social media. This keeps our content fresh and pushed our Google page rank up a notch. But now it's time for the real deal.

The illusion.
I believed that if I found the right WordPress theme it would just be a simple matter of plugging in our content. Then Presto! I'd have a dynamic WordPress site at my command. I wrote 10 Reasons I Jumped on the WordPress Bandwagon to share this magic solution.

Reality Check.
Turns out isn't that easy. I've dressed up our content with a series of themes. I gave Elegant themes a whirl. I tried the Thesis framework on for size. I read every roundup of theme reviews that I could find. But I now I have to face reality. I'm never going to find the perfect off-the-shelf theme for our site.

The Smackdown.
Here's the smackdown part of this article. AKA my humbling journey from free themes, to premium themes, to frameworks, to hiring a custom theme developer.

Free Themes
    The BlueBubble Theme Template
  • The Good: They're free! They're part of the beautiful sharing opensource WordPress community. I used the free BlueBubble theme for my e-learning course Build an e-resume portfolio site with WordPress. If you want a personal blog or e-resume/portfolio site, then a free theme might be the perfect solution for you.
  • The Bad: It's free so you can't expect the same level of support that you would receive with a premium theme. Plus the developer may abandon the theme and stop updating it for new releases of WordPress.
  •  The Ugly: Free themes can hide malicious code so be careful. It's best to get your free themes from the Free Themes Directory.
Premium Themes
  • The Good: You get a professionally designed template for an extremely reasonable cost. Here are a few premium theme solutions that I recommend: Elegant themes and Woo Themes. But there are hundreds of great premium theme sources.
  • The Bad: I'm often attracted to premium themes with beautiful photographs. But when I add my own content the theme suddenly looks plain and cookie-cutter. If you have your own beautiful photos or artwork, this won't be a problem for you.
  • The Ugly: If you use a popular theme then thousands of sites out there will look like yours. Unless you have enough programming and design skills to customize the theme.

Theme Frameworks
A theme framework is designed to be a flexible foundation for faster WordPress development. 

Stafflink Styled with Thesis Folio

I tried the Thesis theme framework along with the Thesisfolio skin. People liked the look of our site dressed up with Thesisfolio. But when we compared the job list, the blog and landing page of our current site side by side with Thesisfolio, the consensus was that our old site was more friendly, approachable and engaging.

Someday I aspire to have our site running on a framework. But right now I need to expedite this project so it's time to hire a pro.

Custom Theme
  • The Promise: Experienced web developers design an original theme to showcase your business. You get a unique online identity for your business and expert support for migration and SEO.
  • Our Choice: We've hired a local Toronto company to develop a custom WordPress theme for us. We'll see how it works out in a month or so when the project is complete.
  • The Risk: Having a custom theme designed is expensive but after of year of unsuccessfully seeking a DIY solution, I think it's worth it. The biggest issue for me is that I'm not doing this development myself. But so far Will Webb, the owner of IMG, is responsive to my questions and I'm hopeful that his team will produce a beautiful site for us. And when it's all finished this baby will be mine.

Who wins the Smackdown? Free, Premium or Custom
It all depends on the purpose of your site, and your level of design and technical skills. For Stafflink, custom theme development is the winner today. But this story isn't over.

Enough about me already.
What's your take on this whole thing?
Do you think I made the right decision to hire a custom theme developer?
What WordPress themes do you recommend?
What's your favourite framework?

Related Links:
10 Reasons I Jumped on the WordPress Bandwagon
Build an e-Resume Portfolio Site with WordPress
WordPress Theme Framework Comparison
WordPress Free Themes Directory

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.


Thursday, March 10, 2011 A New Destination for Affordable Technology Training

Wow! My new e-learning course just went public and here I am sitting on a GoTrain in a freezing rainstorm waiting for people to sign up. I have other things to work on but this course is top-of-mind.

The journey began last October when I received a personal email from SitePoint. Yes Sitepoint! (I'm a huge fan.) It's normal for me to receive newsletters from SitePoint but this was different. Shayne Tilley had a question for me: “Would you like to create your own online course -- just like a SitePoint one?”

The Mothership Calls.
I've been fascinated with e-learning forever. Now I was being invited to create a course by one of my all-time favorite web portals. There was only one possible answer - YES!

My Favorite Courses
I've taken many Sitepoint courses and they were all excellent:
Now these courses are available on And anyone can join in.

This was my chance.
But what to teach? I own an IT staffing agency and I've blogged about the benefits of having an online resume/portfolio website. That seemed a natural place to start. I immediately flipped back a pitch back to Shane: I would teach people how to create an e-resume portfolio website with WordPress.

A Big e-Learning Party and Everyone is Welcome
The best part is that my course is part of a new online training initiative called Learnable where anyone can make a course or take a course. It’s like a big e-learning party. A YouTube for online training. Everyone is welcome to participate. Check it out at

Try My Course for Free
Learnable priced my course at $14.95, but they’ve given me 25 free links to distribute however I like. If you’re interested in taking “Build an e-Resume Portfolio Website with WordPress”, then comment on this blog and ask me for a free link. If I have any left I will be thrilled to send you one!

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.

Monday, February 28, 2011

CPA Ski Day: A Great Team Building Event

What happens when you throw your staff into a dangerous winter sport for the benefit of the greater community? Team building, bonding, cooperation, enthusiasm, and laughter.

Every February we invite our staff and their significant others to join us at the CPA Ski Day (Canadian Paraplegic Association). It's a surprisingly popular event considering that only the owners are regular skiers.

Months before the big event we retell stories from last year's CPA Ski Day. Like the time that Ryan's wife fell on top of the boss's son while getting off a chairlift. Or when Joanne froze at the top of a blue run and got yelled at by a stranger. Or that horrible cross country trek we endured while trying to find a green run called the Northwest Passage, and Lorraine towed Ryan with her ski pole.

In spite of these past traumas, our staff was totally stoked about participating in this year's CPA 2011 Ski and Snowboard Day. Joanne and Michelle enrolled in ski lessons and gave us regular reports on their progress. We planned our outfits. We planned our après ski dinner.

Bottom line: Participating in the CPA ski day is more than a one day event. It's an event that brings us together for the entire winter. Why is it so compelling for all of us?

  1. It feels great to support CPA Ontario with their Track 3 Ski program. It is so beautiful to see the Track 3 volunteers give people with disabilities the chance to ski. Check out these amazing pictures of the 2011 CPA Ski Day.
  2. Skiing is dangerous, but not too dangerous. And it's super fun. That makes for lots of entertaining stories. It also gives us lots of opportunities to bond and help each other out.
  3. Skiing is social. Even if you're not a skier, it's really fun to sit in the ski lodge, share a beer and onion rings and have some laughs.
  4. It’s really fun to learn a new skill. Participants in the CPA Ski Day get free rentals, a lesson, lunch and delicious après ski snacks. They also get to ski at Craigleith, one of the best private ski clubs in Ontario.
I want to thank Donna Ha who encouraged us to go to our first CPA Ski Day about 5 years ago. Donna uses a wheelchair and worked for CPA Ontario before joining our staff. The first CPA Ski Day we participated in occurred during one of the worst snow storms of the season. I drove Donna up to Craigleith in whiteout conditions. When we finally arrived we were greeted by a warm buffet lunch and caring colleagues. Donna even got to ski that afternoon.

I also want to thank CPA Ontario and their key sponsor The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company for hosting this amazing event and for supporting the Track 3 Ski program.

And of course I want to thank our amazing staff for embracing this event and making it so much fun. Now we are all brainstorming ideas for a community outreach activity where our staff could volunteer weekly for a few hours.

Do you have any suggestions for a volunteer program our staff could participate in? Do you have any teambuilding events that you recommend?

Laura Upcott
Stafflink Solutions Ltd.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Diversity Works: Recruiting, Integrating and Hiring Persons with Disabilities

This video is an extremely condensed 5:30 minute version of a workshop that Tim Collins and Donna Ha presented to CGI last month. They've delivered versions of this training to IBM, CIBC, Microsoft and many other clients. It contains the key messages and tips that might be useful to you if your company is interested in hiring, integrating and retaining persons with disabilities.

Stafflink is an IT staffing agency. So you might wonder where our interest in accessibility comes from. Like most people, we have close relationships with with people who have physical challenges but that's not what defines them because they are also exceptionally talented in their work. One of the biggest tragedies I've seen is when someone has excellent skills and loves to work, but their career is suddenly siderailed by an illness or an accident. One of the things I love most about Stafflink is that our owner, Tim Collins, has connected many people like this with jobs.

A few years ago we hired Donna Ha, a person who uses a wheelchair. Donna taught us all about accessibility and was our Diversity Hiring Coordinator for several years. She facilitated many job connections between our clients and qualified persons with disabilities.

Donna moved on to a new job and we love to keep in touch with her as her career develops. We were thrilled when Donna agreed to come back for an afternoon and help Tim Collins deliver this diversity training workshop to CGI.